Published November 14, 2018


SALEM — It was a cold, rainy, November night last Friday when the 2-8 Lynnfield Pioneers traveled to legendary Bertram Field to do battle with the 5-4 Witches of Salem. Coming off a statement victory against Wakefield the week prior, Lynnfield looked to further their momentum going into the annual Thanksgiving Day clash with you know who.

The Pioneers kicked the game off with a bang, executing a perfect onside-kick attempt from sophomore Blake Peters. Following a 42-yard pass from junior quarterback Clayton Marengi to sophomore receiver Jack Ford, Lynnfield found themselves in good position to earn the game’s first points. A few plays later, that came to fruition when senior captain Jaret Simpson pounded it in from six yards out, giving Lynnfield an early 8-0 lead.

The Witches took little time to respond, putting together an eight-play scoring drive of their own. The series culminated with a 3-yard rushing touchdown from Salem running back Sam-Lauren O’Furie. After a successful two-point try, the game remained tied late in the first quarter.

JARET SIMPSON (32) celebrates his game-winning touchdown in Salem with John Lee (10) and Sal Marotta. Simpson had two touchdowns for Lynnfield. (Kerrianne Allain Photo)

On the next Salem offensive series, an errant snap forced Salem quarterback Ethan Garcia to accept a safety falling on the live ball in the end zone. The center’s wide snap would foreshadow things to come.

David Capachietti set the Pioneers up in great field position following the free kick. Set up at the Salem 43 yard line, Lynnfield quickly went to work. Junior receiver John Lee took two handoffs for 14 and 21 yards to put the Pioneers at the Witches’ 8-yard line. Three plays later on a 3rd and goal from the 12 yard line, Marengi lofted a ball to the left corner where it was deflected in the air. After the tip, the ball hung in the air for an eternity before junior receiver Matthew Fiore snatched the ball inches above the ground.

The Pioneers hoped to bring their 16-8 lead into the locker room, but the Witches were not done scoring just yet. Beginning at their own 33 yard line, Salem picked up big chunks of yardage on the back of O’Furie. On an important 4th-and-6 at the Lynnfield 34-yard line, O’Furie had his number called again and would take it all the way to the house. However, Salem would not be able to convert on the two point conversion giving the Pioneers a 16-14 lead going into halftime.

Late in the third quarter, a great return from Salem return-man Jaydrian Garcia put the Witches at the Lynnfield 11-yard line. Two plays later, the dominant O’Furie would barrel his way across the goal line for a 5-yard score. Once again, the Salem two-point conversion would be halted after another high snap from under center.

With the rain intensifying and now trailing 20-16 in the 4th quarter, Lynnfield hoped to find a way to regain the lead. On a 3rd-and-7 in Pioneer territory, Marengi could not find anyone and would take a tough sack. Now punting back to the tremendous rushing Salem team, a Lynnfield victory began to look bleak.

Late in the game with victory on the line, the Pioneers defense, like they have all year, came up huge. The Witches had the ball deep in their own territory when yet another high snap would change the course of the game. After the wild snap, Lynnfield outside linebacker Owen Blacker jumped atop the slippery pigskin for the recovery.

“In that close of a game, mistakes are the difference,” commented Lynnfield head coach Pat Lamusta following the game. “Our team executed in the biggest moments giving us a chance to win.”

After retaining possession, the Pioneers were only 16 yards away from taking the lead. On a crucial 3rd-and-7 from the 13-yard line, Lynnfield turned to the captain.

Marengi handed off to Jaret Simpson who tore it 16 yards up the middle for his second touchdown of the game.

Now with only enough time for one more possession, the Pioneer defense had to do their job just this last time to secure a second straight victory. Lynnfield set the tone on the first play, lighting up the stingy O’Furie in the backfield. Two plays later it all came down to a 4th-and-4. Garcia rolled right and threw a high-arching pass to a diving Chris Ngarambe. The receiver was able to make a diving catch, he just happened to be short of the first down.

After doing the job on defense, the offense finished the game off after a perfectly executed hard count on a 4th-and-1 play. Lynnfield then came out in victory formation and for the first time all year had consecutive victories.

It all comes down to just one more game. The all-important Thanksgiving Day game against the rival North Reading Hornets. Lynnfield has not taken down the Hornets since 2015 and will have their shot Thanksgiving morning on Lynnfield soil. No one knows the importance more than coach Lamusta.

“After two tough losses to North Reading in 2017 and 2016, we have an opportunity to reset the rivalry on our terms,” said Lamusta.